Author Interview with @BenjamHope! #gothic #steampunk #Victorian #alchemy

Today I’m excited to present Benjamin Hope, author of The Procurement of Souls. As a fan of alchemy, the premise of his novel intrigued me, and after reading the first chapter, it’s definitely on my to-be-read list!

Benjamin HopeQuestion 1) What part of the world do you come from?

I’m from Hertfordshire, just north of London, in the UK.

Question 2) What do you think makes a good story?

Good stories immerse the reader in their world. In order to do this most effectively, I think narratives need to have strongly imagined characters through which the reader can understand and experience this world. By strongly imagined, I mean characters who develop and grow through the arc of the story; who are fallible in one way or another; and who have a strong sense of purpose, a goal to achieve (and even better if this shifts or changes along the way!), and problems to overcome. In this way, characters not only allow the reader to connect more personally to the story but also drive the pace forward and craft the shape of the plot.

Question 3) What inspired you to write your first book?

I’ve always been inspired to write, even as a very young boy. Although, my first attempt at a full-length novel came when I was about 18 – it was a disaster! I was trying to write with somebody else’s voice; to emulate an author rather than allowing my own natural style develop. It wasn’t until later on, after I truly felt that I had found my voice that I came up with a seed of an idea for The Procurement of Souls. It kept on resurfacing, like an itch that wouldn’t be scratched until I finally put fingers to the keyboard and started getting it down. I can’t say what the inspiration was exactly, only that I have always loved history and fantasy-sci-fi and I suppose those loves combined into an initial idea kept growing until I had the bones of my first novel!

Question 4) What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Well, I have a full-time job and an 8-month-old baby, so more recently I’ve been fitting it in as and when I can – lunchtimes, weekends, evenings, etc. I’ve also been on shared parental leave in Berlin for the last couple of months (with my wife’s work) and I’ve been very fortunate to have my mother-in-law with us too, which has enabled me to get cracking with my sequel in between changing nappies!

Question 5) What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

It’s not so much a quirk as an interesting circumstance, but my wife is an opera singer and so travels a lot with her profession. This means that I’m quite often a mobile writer! The Procurement of Souls was written in London, Madrid, Paris, Vienna, and Berlin! In fact, I finished my first draft of PoS in a smoky café in Vienna – I felt like Hemmingway!

Question 6) Give us the title and genre of your latest book.

My debut, The Procurement of Souls, had its official launch on 1stJuly. It’s a Victorian-gothic-steampunk crossover about the exploits of two opposing bio-alchemists.

Question 7) What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?

The fact that finishing a complete first draft of a novel is only the beginning of the journey! When you get there, it’s an amazing feeling and one that every writer should be proud of, but then comes the re-writes, the overhauls, the re-jigs, the additions, the exclusions, the copy-editing etc. As an indie author, you are reliant on a huge amount of self-discipline and of course it’s exceptionally hard to be objective with your work – you quickly become ‘snow-blind’ to the words on the page – both in terms of content and technical accuracy and without access to, or the means to employ, a professional editor, the ability to ensure all aspects of the narrative is a good as it can be, is a real challenge. I am a self-confessed perfectionist and to ensure that The Procurement of Soulsreflected the very best of me, I turned to a number of people I knew who could objectify my work, provide that much needed brutally honest feedback and eliminate any technical errors too. 

Question 8) Do you have an excerpt from your current work you’d like to share?

Procurement of Souls Benjamin Hope Cover Art slim.jpgI think it’s best to start at the beginning, so here’s chapter 1!

*CONTAINS EXPLETIVES*

The whites of two wide eyes were all that could be seen in the splinter of light that passed through the crack in the swollen doorjamb. Dr Weimer observed in silence the blind panic that radiated from them as they darted one way and then another, desperately trying to place themselves. The fear was pungent. Smells like he’s soiled himself, he thought with distastebefore throwing open the door and illuminating the room with such a contrasting brightness that the man in the chair audibly gasped.

‘Mr Wade,’ Dr Weimer began as he stepped inside, ‘you must forgive the enforced and abrupt manner in which we make one another’s acquaintance. I dare say that having a bag thrust upon one’s head unexpectedly is most unpleasant and disconcerting.’ His tone was saccharine; sugared with false sincerity. ‘But unfortunately, you hold in your possession something I require. Something important. Something personal.’ He smiled at him, his fat lips parting obtusely and revealing a row of white but stubby teeth, spread with almost uniform gapping in a blood-red gum, before pushing his circular glass frames further up the bridge of his nose with deliberate precision. ‘Nevertheless, this is the situation we find ourselves in.’ He moved a little closer towards him and noticed with curiosity and self-acknowledged satisfaction how the man visibly shrank at his advance.

Wade felt his throat constrict at this sudden and disturbing entrance. Panic took a slightly firmer grip and he tried pressing with all his strength against the back of the chair, to no avail.

His mind clutched at words to try to rescue himself from the situation. ‘Alright, alright, I’ll do whatever you want. Just untie me and I’ll promise to –’ but he felt his voice catch, his mouth dry to gravel. He simply couldn’t seem to keep his sense of dread in check. He’d been in precarious situations before but this whole scenario seemed different. The moment he’d been taken and heard the purr of that woman’s accented voice in his ear, it was clear this was out of the ordinary. This man too; the smell of the place – acrid and chemical – was all wrong. He cursed inwardly for not keeping his cool. It was normally him doing the intimidating, yet his pulse continued to spiral higher as sweat pooled at the nape of his neck and thoughts of what this could be about flickered across his mind’s-eye like a flip-book. ‘Listen,’ he implored, ‘listen. I don’t know what it is you think I have but if you untie me, I promise to help you. I have connections. You just need to untie me first and –’

He was cut off with a single word. ‘No,’ the man said, savouring the roundness of the vowel before continuing. ‘That won’t be possible, I’m afraid. After I explain our situation further, I happen to know you’ll be rather less obliging of my needs. Untying you would be entirely counter-productive.’

Wade snorted a number of times in quick succession. Why him? Why now? It had occurred to him that this could be some vengeful intimidation strategy being exacted upon him by some enemy or other. God knows there were plenty of those. Somebody he’d cheated maybe? Perhaps a harbour-master from one of the dock sites he’d failed a run for? But although a good number of possibilities came to mind, not one seemed to fit this particular glove and looking up at this piggy-eyed psychopath in his pristine white apron, illicit goods and aggrieved dockers appeared to be the least of his worries. No, this was something different and strange: it sickened him to the gut. And as he looked wildly around for some hope of an escape, he thought he began to connect a number of the dots.

A surgeon’s operating table stood in the middle of the room with a tray of instruments waiting next to it. Beside that, a tangle of transparent tubes articulated with rubber joints led to a brass-coloured sphere the size of a carriage with a dozen or so pistons sticking out at a diagonal on either side. Bile rose in his throat.

‘What is this? What are you – a doctor? A surgeon? What do you want from me?’ Anxiety had forced his larynx so far up that the words barely squeaked out. He pulled upwards desperately with his wrists to try and loosen his manacles. ‘I… I really have nothing… nothing worth taking.’

‘That you know of, Mr Wade, that you know of. We all have something worth giving. You need to calm down or you’ll cut your hands to shreds. It’s surgical wire, not yarn; I don’t want you bleeding out.’

‘But… but what could you possibly need me for? I’ve told you, I have nothing to my name, I’m just a… a… nobody.’ He frothed at the mouth a little.

The doctor’s eyes narrowed tightly to slits. ‘That’s precisely why you’re here. You’ve no family either from what I’m told?’

‘Wha-what? No! I don’t – I – fuck! Please! Don’t cut me open! Don’t take my organs, I –’

‘Mr Wade, nobody is going to cut anybody open. What possible use could I have with your organs? I’m not some vulgar anatomist looking to advance his expertise. We shan’t be on the table today. What I want is much more valuable than that.’ He walked abruptly behind his chair and unlocked the wheels. ‘And it’s time to start the preparations.’

Wade’s chair took a sudden jerk backwards and he came face-to-face with his tormenter. He felt the floor slip away beneath him and heard the grumble and squeak of the casters as he was wheeled beside the bed.

‘Now, I should warn you that you may feel a certain degree of discomfort, Mr Wade. It’s perfectly normal. I just need to support your neck a little.’

Mr Wade screamed. Something was clamped suddenly about his thick neck, rigid and tall, pulling his vertebrae fully erect. Cold steel pressed against his skin and held him there unnaturally straight. His hands squirmed despite himself, the wire cutting into more flesh. He had been rendered absolutely useless, and despite his muscular, bullish frame, he was quite at this malefactor’s mercy: a pathetic fly wound tight in the spider’s web.

‘Forgive me,’ continued the doctor, ‘just a precautionary measure to ensure the tubing doesn’t shatter mid-journey. It’s imperative your oesophagus remains in one piece.’ He unhooked a length of tubing from the stand and held one end up to the bare light. An evil metal barb, like the tail of a stingray, flashed as he turned it slowly in his gloved hand. ‘Now listen, you’re an exceedingly large man and I would suggest that the stiller you are, the easier this will all be and the fewer accidents we are likely to have. Open your mouth please, wide.’

Wade’s eyes took on the appearance of twin new moons crossing each other’s orbits as the metal end came towards him.

‘Your mouth, Mr Wade.’

A spike of pain burned unexpectedly at his side forcing him into an involuntary gasp and in that instant the end of the tube found itself secreted at the back of his mouth. He tasted the cold tang of metal briefly on his tongue before it passed back and slipped down into his throat and further still. He gagged to no relief. His tongue lolled inadequately to one side.

The doctor put the scalpel he’d been holding back on the table. ‘Now take slow steady breaths. You will manage that if you remain calm.’

Down the tubing went, like some uninvited serpent, all the way until he felt it in the pit of his belly. The doctor held the other end up vertically above him and with a curt nod looped it through a fine wire coil dangling from the ceiling.

‘Well, we’re in place and anchored at your core. So, let’s begin.’

The syringe was not like anything Wade had ever seen before. For one thing, the needle was curved, and flexed at the touch.

‘We need to introduce the antithesis of what we require in order to act as a lure. It is the simplicity of opposite attraction.’ The doctor held the syringe a little higher and squirted a touch of the scum-coloured fluid into a kidney-shaped tray. ‘Human brain to be precise, mixed with a unique compound of my own design – the cerebrum is quite dead you see and just what we need to draw our target out.’ He depressed the plunger, introducing the liquid steadily into the tubing. This he unlatched from the wire loop and secured the opposite end to a panel at the bottom of the brass sphere behind them. Mr Wade blinked violently in protest, his teeth vibrating against the glass. His mind swam. What was he talking about? What did he mean? Surely, he would realise he had the wrong man.

Suddenly a terrible cramp grasped at him somewhere near the pit of his stomach. For a second, he had the notion that he might soil himself. The cramp grew. He felt an excruciating wrenching of something pulling apart; could actually feel involuntary movement in his abdomen. A tearing was faintly audible. ‘Sthh-sthh’ he hissed with his tongue on the tubing.

He could feel the doctor’s eyes upon him, observing. His apparent composure was chilling, as he stood, hands formed into a cage at his chest, simply watching. And then a peculiar stillness came over him too: an emptiness and sensation of release, much like the feeling after vomiting. Was this it? Would he let him go now? His eyes searched sideways for an answer.

‘The calm before the storm,’ noted the doctor.

A crippling, violent spasm shot through Wade’s body, radiating from his centre so that, despite the length of glass-tubing inside him, he stretched out awkwardly against his wire restraints, his frame rigid as steel. He couldn’t breathe, not at all. He tried to suck in air. His lungs burned. Blood rose to the surface, covering his skin in raised veins and capillaries: worms of red, threatening to burst at any moment. I’m dying, he thought. This is it.

An audible popsounded from within him, the noise making even the doctor jump slightly. Wade’s body slumped as far as it could in the chair and then movement shook the tubing. Something viscous issued from his mouth along the length of glass. Pink, yellow, plum, red, green: its colour seemed to morph as it moved rapidly towards the brass sphere, like light refracted through water. It gave off a haze or glow that bathed the room in a peculiar tint before disappearing again inside the machine.

Question 9) What can we expect from you in the future?  

Benjamin Hope midshotI’m currently busy writing the sequel to The Procurement of Souls. It’s called A New Religion and I won’t give too much away about the plot except to say it features more steampunkesque inventions, a host of new characters, and a few familiar faces along the way! I also have plans for a collection of gothic-influenced cautionary fairy-tales. I released one for World Book Night this year, The Rookery at Smeaton Abbey, which you can read on my website here. I have also sketched out the bare bones of a full-length cautionary fairy tale. So, with the addition of my regular blogging and book recommendations, there’s lots going on but I am focusing my energies on A New Religion at the moment, which should be set for publication in 2019.

Question 10) What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Well, The Procurement of Soulsis my debut so I’m yet to experience that joyous moment but I did treat myself to a new laptop a few months ago. As I said earlier, as I travel a lot, it’s important that I have something reliable and portable, so that I can write wherever I am.

Question 11) How can we contact you or find out more about your books?

You can check out my website, www.benjamin-hope.com where you can find out about my latest work and read my regular blogs about the writing process. You can sign-up to my mailing list there, follow me if you’re a WordPress user, or follow me on Twitter or Instagram @BenjamHope.

The Procurement of Souls is available as a paperback or eBook (in most formats) from your local Amazon and most online bookstores.

Quick links:

USA Amazon

UK Amazon

Procurement of Souls Benjamin Hope Cover Art slim.jpg

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#Interview with #author, @bawrites! #MattSmith #MG #steampunk #dystopian #DoctorWho #DrWho #doctorwhoislife

dwbannersmaller

Next up is author B.A. Williamson with an exciting middle grade book that is on my to-be-read list. He’ll be talking about how #DoctorWho and #MattSmith inspired his book — The Marvelous Adventures of Gwendolyn Gray!

Question 1) What part of the world do you come from?

interview1.pngI hail from a quaint little neighborhood on the east side of Indianapolis.

Question 2) When did you become a fan of Doctor Who?

I became a fan in college, when I went home on spring break and my Dad was watching this strange show. Some fat green Vogon-like aliens had just destroyed Big Ben, and they farted a lot, and came from a planet with a funny name. When he told me what it was, I remembered seeing a whole shelf of classic Doctor Who tapes at the local library while I was growing up, but I never touched them, a decision I now painfully regret. Tom Baker would have vastly improved my childhood. As it was, I watched a little with my Dad while I was home, but I didn’t become a fan in my own right until I saw David Tennant’s first episode with the Sycorax.

Question 3) What do you think makes a good story?

Desire+Obstacle. Your character has to want something, and want it badly, no matter how small it is. There needs to be things standing in the way, obstacles that match the character’s level of desire. If your character doesn’t have a clear driving goal, we lose interest. I also think a story should have something to say, beyond just beating the bad guys. Doctor Who has infinite storytelling possibility, but it touches on some of the deepest topics that any form of literature can approach, which is something science-fiction has always been particularly suited to.

Question 4) Congratulations on the publication of The Marvelous Adventures of Gwendolyn Gray! Tell me a little bit about your book.

interview5.pngGwendolyn Gray faces an overwhelming battle every day: keeping her imagination under control. It’s a struggle for a dreamer like Gwendolyn, in a city of identical gray skyscrapers, clouds that never clear, and grown-ups who never understand. She’s a plucky little redheaded outcast that would be perfectly at home in the TARDIS.

But when her daydreams come alive and run amok in The City, the struggle to control them becomes as real as the furry creatures infesting her bedroom. Worse yet, she’s drawn the attention of the Faceless Gentlemen, who want to preserve order in The City by erasing Gwendolyn and her troublesome creations.

With the help of two explorers from another world, Gwendolyn escapes and finds herself in a land of clockwork inventions and colorful creations. Now Gwendolyn must harness her powers and, with a gang of airship pirates, stop the Faceless Gentlemen from destroying the new world she loves and the home that never wanted her—before every world becomes gray and dull.

If that sounds like the plot of a Doctor Who episode, well, you wouldn’t be far off the mark.

Question 5) What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating this book? 

interview6Seeing how your own characters can take on a life of your own, and do things that surprise you. When you’re writing, and you get really in the zone, stuff comes out that feels completely independent, and I have no idea where it comes from. Which then became a theme of the book in and of itself, and I spend a lot of time exploring the nature of imagination and creation, and how it can be a type of magic on its own.

Question 6) I understand that Doctor Who has played a significant role in your writing. Can you elaborate on that?

It tremendously influences the type of story I want to tell. Those are the stories I love, and I wanted to emulate those somehow, I wanted to tell a world-hopping portal fantasy. When I was looking at how to craft a tale of an imaginative kid bouncing between worlds and solving her problems with wits, not weapons, I went and studied some of the best Who episodes. I looked at their structure, how the Doctor eventually prevailed in spite of overwhelming obstacles. I looked at how the best episodes deliver a strong message, not in a preachy way, but one that was at the center of a fantastic adventure story and compelling characters. And of course, every adventure involves a lot of running.

Question 7) Turns out, our books both have something in common — Matt Smith! Any specific characteristics of him can be found in your characters?

Matt-Smith-and-David-Tennant.png

His short attention span and tendency to babble. His childishness comes through in Gwendolyn, because Gwendolyn is herself a child. But there’s also a weight of sadness there: these actions have consequences, and the characters have to feel those deeply, but always choose to go on.

Question 8) Who is your Doctor?

David Tennant, always and forever. Particularly, The Christmas Invasion, Blink, The Shakespeare Code, Gridlock, The Beast, Tooth and Claw, the Cybermen invasion, and the Master’s Return. I don’t think the show has ever been better than his first two seasons.

Question 9) What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

The beginning. Figuring out what the story is and where it’s going. And every time you start, you never completely know what’s going to happen or how it’s going to turn out. Starting a new story is like taking a leap off a cliff, and it’s just as terrifying. I always have an ending in mind, but parts of the journey are still huge blanks. You just have to trust yourself, your skills, your voice, and let it go where it will. But it’s never an easy step for me.

Question 10) What would you say is your interesting quirk?

I like to dress in costume for my book events. The narrator in the book is a bit of a character in and of itself, and I like to become something like that character. It comes from my theatre background, I suppose.

Question 11) Do you have an excerpt from the book you’d like to share?

Sure! Here’s one that’s particularly Who-vian. Gwendolyn lives in the City, a dystopian place where creativity and ideas simply don’t exist. It’s not “the way things are done.” Picture a mid-century modern future straight out of Mad Men with the social structure and values of Mr. Banks from Mary Poppins. Gwendolyn’s imagination just made one of her classmates grow actual rabbit ears, and while running from the consequences of that, she has just discovered a major secret and some strange artifacts on the Edge of the City, a place no one knew existed. Now she has her first run-in with the villains of our story. It’s a very Who sort of scene- creepy baddies, sudden rescues by mysterious new friends from other worlds, and plenty of running.

interview2.pngGwendolyn sprawled on the sidewalk, nose to toe with four polished black shoes. Above the shoes were crisp grey pants, and above that were twice-buttoned jackets with black ties pinned smartly to white shirts. The men both wore black bowler hats, and they had no faces.

Let me be clear: they had noses, yes, and mouths as well. Likewise eyes and ears, all in the right place and amount.

But Gwendolyn could not have told you what they looked like.

Looking at them was like trying to picture the face of a friend you haven’t seen in years. The men stood plain as day in front of her, but the faces underneath those bowler hats slipped from her mind like eels, as though her eyes saw something terrible, and refused to tell her brain what they had seen. Most people have never seen a man with no face, but let me assure you that it is a sight so unsettling that it puts goosebumps on your eyeballs.

A white-gloved hand reached down. Gwendolyn thought it meant to help her up, but it picked up the book instead. The man’s eyes examined the gleaming title, and the gloved hands flipped through the colorful illustrations.

Gwendolyn snatched up the gem and snuck it in her pocket.

The man turned to his comrade. “This is a very interesting book, Mister Five.” he said. His voice was a high-pitched whining monotone, crisp and proper. The voice she’d heard in the Headmaster’s office.

“Very interesting indeed, Mister Six,” replied the other, his voice identical to the first. He leaned in slightly, ever so slightly, to examine the book.

Gwendolyn got to her feet and put on her precious-little-girl voice, all sweetness and light, the kind you use when you want a second helping of dessert. “I’m terribly sorry, sirs. I wasn’t watching my way.”

Slowly, ever so slowly, the two men’s eyes turned from the book toward Gwendolyn. Their heads cocked to the side and stared at her, faces instantly dissolving in her memory.

Gwendolyn shuddered. “If you will accept my polite apologies, I will take my book and be on my way. Mother will be quite cross if I am late.”

The men ignored her. Carefully, ever so carefully, their hands flipped through the book as though the pages were covered in muck, and they didn’t wish to dirty their white gloves.

“Where did you get this book, my dear?” said Mister Five.

“Uhh…” Gwendolyn stammered, “it’s mine, and I would like it back now, please.”

“This is a very unique book, little girl. And my partner and I… collect… things such as this,” said one of the men.

Gwendolyn again felt the gut-wrenching sensation of being caught, as she felt earlier with the Centrals, but these gentlemen made Cecilia and her gang seem positively fluffy. “I’m sorry sir, but it is mine, and it is not for sale. I must insist that you give it back. Please?”

“What do you think, Mister Five?” one of the men whined eerily.

“She has seen the book, Mister Six, and would appear to have been reading it quite intently,” said the other, examining the edges of the pages. “And unless I’m very much mistaken, and I seldom am, Mister Six—”

“-No, indeed, Mister Five—”

“-this girl is not where she should be.”

“Most assuredly not, Mister Five. The Edge is not permissible to the citizenry; particularly children. Most particularly not to children so particularly… strange.” Gently, ever so gently, his gloved hand reached out and caressed a lock of Gwendolyn’s fiery hair.

Gwendolyn flinched. The man’s brief touch made her skin want to crawl off her bones, into bed, and under the blankets. She slapped his hand away, but Mister Six didn’t react.

“You are correct, Mister Six,” said Mister Five. “She has seen The Wall, and this book, and who knows what else. She is also certainly the one causing these unacceptable… changes. No, no, no, I’m afraid we really have no choice,” droned Mister Five.

Mister Six’s hand reached up slowly, ever so slowly, to his black bowler hat. “I agree completely, Mister Five. These changes simply must be dealt with.” His tone turned sweet, dripping more venom than honey: “Girl. Might I draw your attention here, to my lovely hat?”

He took off the hat and turned it toward her, like a magician showing that his hat is indeed empty. But instead of a rabbit, a pinpoint of light came out of the hat’s black interior. Gwendolyn’s gaze was locked in place.

Cold light poured out of the hat. It was just like a Lambent; but one more potent than any she had ever encountered. Her eyes burned but she could not look away. With an awful shock, she found she could no longer move. Any thoughts of running or escaping faded. She could feel her mind slipping away, drawn toward the light, drowning in it.

“Perfectly done, little girl. It doesn’t hurt.”

He was wrong. It did hurt. Her head felt like it would split in two. The searing pain brought her back to her senses. “No!” she shouted, and reached forward to knock the hat away.

Mister Six stepped easily out of reach. “The girl resists, Mister Five.”

“Indeed she does, Mister Six. She is stronger than anticipated. Increase the power.” The light doubled in brightness. She held up her hand to block it, but it didn’t help.

Her hand… she could see right through it. It was vanishing before her eyes, disappearing like a puddle on a hot day. She felt disconnected from her body, her arms and legs as far away as yesterday’s dream. She felt like a glass of water being poured into a swirling drain. Her thoughts, normally so fast she couldn’t control them, began to slow. She felt… less.

Mister Six’s mouth curved upward slightly, ever so slightly. “Yes, this will only take a mo—”

“Look out!”

Someone collided with the faceless man, and hard. Mister Six was knocked to the street, his hat rolling away, and the book skidded down the sidewalk. Senseless Gwendolyn was grabbed by a pair of rough hands and pulled down the street like a rag doll.

“Move your feet, or I’m leaving you!” came another voice, a girl’s. Gwendolyn shook her head as the volume on her senses was turned back up.

And for the third time that day, Gwendolyn Gray was running away.

She noticed several things all at once. She noticed a very peculiar looking boy, about her own age, running beside her. She noticed a bright red jacket and a long yellow scarf that fluttered behind him. He grinned recklessly, holding his flat and checkered newsboy cap. He held up a red book. “Here! You dropped this. Clumsy.”

Gwendolyn took it, noticing that her hand was solid and whole again. She noticed the girl pulling her other hand wore a complicated-looking set of goggles on her head, all dials and lenses. Her shimmering blouse was not quite green, not quite blue, but was somehow both at once underneath a coppery-orange vest. She looked back at Gwendolyn and gave her arm a fierce tug. “Quit staring at me and run!”

She did, pushing her feet as fast as they would go. They sprinted through the deserted streets. The Mister Men followed effortlessly, seeming almost to float over the ground.

Suddenly, Gwendolyn noticed some scattered pedestrians in shabby clothes. Gwendolyn must have run all the way to the beginning of the Outskirts. People gaped at the wild children who would dare run through The City’s streets, but the Mister Men passed by without so much as a glance from the Cityzens, and the sparse crowds moved mindlessly aside to let them through.

Gwendolyn turned to look behind, but the Mister Men never grew any closer or farther away. “I can’t… keep running… like this!” she gasped, her satchel banging against her side with every step.

“Quick! This way!” The boy shouted.

“Sparrow, wait!” the girl said, but the boy ducked into an alleyway. The girl groaned and pulled Gwendolyn in after him.

It was a dead end.

The boy spun around. “Oh. Never mind. What now, Starling?”

“What? Not again! This was your idea!” She groaned. “Fine. Take her! I’ll catch up.” She pointed at something down the alley, then pushed Gwendolyn at the boy and started patting the pockets of her pants. The girl was nothing but pockets from the waist down. Her black trousers were covered in them, and she wore crisscrossing belts full of dangling tools and gadgets. Gwendolyn wondered if she needed all those belts to hold up such heavily laden pants.

The older girl pulled a copper sphere from a pocket on her thigh and twisted the two halves, winding it up. She leaned out of the alleyway and tossed it into the air just as the Mister Men came around the corner. The sphere whirred, clicked, and then exploded with a loud SNAP!

The alley entrance was instantly filled with orange smoke. One of the men stumbled out of the cloud, but the girl shoved him back in. She pulled her goggles down over her eyes and flipped a lens into place. “Go! I’ll lead them away and circle back!” Then she plunged into the fog.

“Come on!” the boy said. He pulled Gwendolyn down the alleyway and studied the wall at the end. “Now, what was Starling pointing at?”

Gwendolyn noticed a fire escape above them, old iron ladders and walkways bolted to the side of the building. “Do you think she meant that?”

“Oh, yeah. Good call.” The boy shot her a toothy grin, one that was altogether too cocky for their present situation. He jumped up and pulled the ladder down. “Ladies first.”

Gwendolyn hesitated. “Uh… I’m not climbing over you in this skirt. I’ll thank the gentleman to go first.” It was a good excuse, but truthfully she just wanted to see if it would hold his weight.

The boy’s jaw dropped, taken aback. “I didn’t… That’s not… I would never…”

A loud crash came from the smoke behind them.

“Just climb!” Gwendolyn shouted, though she was glad to wipe that smug smile from his face. She had the presence of mind to stick the book in her bag.

He scrambled up the ladder, but was already grinning again, and gave her a wink. “Be careful, girlie. Wouldn’t want to tear that precious skirt of yours.”

“Just worry about yourself, little boy, and when you fall, try and avoid my head.” Teasing him was an easy way to hide how terrified she was.

The fire escape held, and they reached the roof. They crossed to the other side and looked down. The sheer drop to the street below made her eyes swirl. A twelve-story fall is not the sort of story you’ll ever get to tell.

“What now? There’s nowhere to go!” Gwendolyn said.

“Nowhere to go? Please. I have a plan. Well, we have a plan. Um . . . Starling will have a plan. Any trouble down there?” he asked the goggled girl, who was clambering over the edge of the roof.

“Yes. And all of it is your fault. But I bought us a few moments. Now take one of these.” The girl produced a collection of objects from another one of her pockets and tossed something to each of them.

Gwendolyn caught it. It was a miniature umbrella, bright pink with purple spirals on it, not much larger than her hand. It was the same sort of umbrella your parents might put into a tropical drink on the beach when they’ve left you and your sister at home with relatives. Gwendolyn frowned at it, but she opened it with a crinkly pop.

“When I say so, jump,” said the older girl, approaching the edge of the roof.

This was too much, even for Gwendolyn. “Jump? We’ll be smushed!” She glanced at the pitifully small umbrella in her hand.

The boy rolled his eyes. “You wanted a plan. Maybe you should ask them about it,” he cocked a thumb at the Faceless Gentlemen, who had just appeared on the roof.

“This is a most inappropriate way for young children to act, Mister Five.” said the man on the left, his face slipping from Gwendolyn’s mind like water through her fingers.

“Most inappropriate indeed, Mister Six. They will have to be dealt with immediately. These sorts of… intrusions… cannot be tolerated,” the other replied. They strode across the roof toward the children, each step in perfect unison.

Gwendolyn looked down at the punishingly solid sidewalk. She glanced at the boy, and got another infuriating wink. For someone saving her life, he was certainly not impressing her. “Isn’t there another way?”

“Of course there is another way…” droned Mister Five. His hand reached toward her in a gesture that absolutely failed to be comforting. “Come with us.” His voice took on the sickly sweetness of cough syrup. “Your parents must be worried sick about you. No little girl should be out this far. Just what would your mother think?”

“What indeed, Mister Five. We will take care of you, girl, and see you home safe. We will explain everything to your parents, make all your problems… disappear. We might even allow you to keep that little book. The Status Quo will be preserved. All will be well. After all, you cannot trust such dreadful children as these.” His white gloved hand waved toward her brightly colored companions.

You and I might be able to spot the lie these men told, but we are not the one’s teetering over the edge of a fatal fall. Gwendolyn hesitated. What would Mother think? She would certainly not approve of any of this dashing about, nor of her two rescuers. But her parents had also never seen anything like these men, and she wasn’t certain they’d approve of them, either.

The boy put a hand on her shoulder. “It’s us or them. Now or never.”

She took a deep breath and looked over the side. She had to do it. She couldn’t turn back now. She would imagine she was brave, even if she felt like throwing up.

“Then I guess it’s now,” she whispered. She squeezed her eyes shut, gripped the umbrella, bent her knees-

“Sorry, girlie, time’s up!” The boy gave her a shove, and Gwendolyn fell with a shriek. The older girl followed, leaping from the roof.

“So long, chaps!” The boy tipped his cap to the Mister Men, showed them a very impolite finger, and jumped.

Question 12) What can we expect from you in the future?

More Gwendolyn! I’m currently working on The Fantastical Exploits of Gwendolyn Gray, and where the first one features a trip to a Steampunk world, this time she’ll find herself trapped in the land of the Fae.

Question 13) How can others find out more about you and your work?

The book itself is on Amazon and Goodreads. The website is gwendolyngray.com, but I’m probably most active on the Facebook page, facebook.com/gwendolyngraybook. Twitter is my social of choice, but you can find me pretty much anywhere @bawrites. I’m always happy to chat, particularly about the book!

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Author Interview with @authorcsmith! #FridayFeature #DoctorWho #Whovian #scifi #fantasy #steampunk #timetravel #authorinterview

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This interview I’m very excited about as it is my kickoff to the latest section of my blog on novels, short stories, anthologies, scripts, audio scripts, fanfic, etc, surrounding the #DoctorWho fandom.

Today, I’m fortunate to present Claire Smith, author of The Quest Of The Prodigy.

Welcome!

Thank you so much, Mackenzie!!! Always love getting love from a #Whovian! Whovians make the best sort of humans 🙂 

Question 1) What part of the world do you come from? 

Claire_BHC_Web.jpgBorn and raised in the western suburbs of Chicago. Moved to Greenville, SC in 2013 to be with family. Loving the southern life! 

Question 2) What do you think makes a good story? 

For me, it’s always the characters. I always say the story starts and ends with a good character. If you don’t have interesting characters, my attention gets lost very easily! That’s why I take character building very seriously! I also believe that one should learn something from reading a book. Not like an after-school special, but either a new take on something or an actual fact they might not have known. I believe that’s the power of fiction, to teach us something about reality too. 

Question 3) Congratulations on the release of The Quest Of The Prodigy! Tell us what inspired you to write this book?

Quest_of_the_Prodigy_Claire_Smith_WEB.jpgThank you so much! Well, it was back in 2012 and my friends and I were making fun of the rather new BBC show Sherlock. We were teasing about British surnames and I somehow thought of the name Barkley. And somehow I knew he was a time-traveler! And everything else just came from that 🙂 

Question 4) What would you consider your greatest writing challenge?

Finishing!!! I get so many ideas, that is hard to stay focused and finish a project. I have about five projects I’m working on at the moment!

Question 5) I understand your book was also selected by Barnes and Noble as a special two-week exclusive release on Nook! How did you react when you heard the news? 

Thank you! Well much to the disappointment of my amazing publishers, BHC Press, I had laryngitis at the time so I could barely say anything!!! So, I was screaming on the inside, lol.

Question 6) Turns out, your target audience is the same as mine – #DoctorWho fans! What made you select #Whovians?

I wrote this book FOR Whovians 🙂 I’ve always loved Time Travel, and been a Whovian for almost 8 years now! I wanted a book that was a fun, light-hearted read that would satisfy the Whovian in between seasons. And this book was also geared towards the sci-fi fan that likes the technology side of sci-fi explained so it’s less ‘magical’ and more ‘scientific’, kind of like Doctor Who! 

Question 7) Who’s your Doctor?

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Well, it’s cliche but the Tenth Doctor! It just wasn’t on his handsome looks, lol. I started watching Doctor Who a little differently because I started with Torchwood which was introduced to me first via BBC America. Then my British friend @jetlbomb introduced me to Doctor Who! She said if I loved Jack Harkness so much I should watch all of Doctor Who! So I started with the Empty Child, hit all the Jack episodes and then started again with Rose. It wasn’t until I saw the Utopia two-parter that I was HOOKED and so David Tennant will always be my Doctor. And Matt Smith is COOL, and well, being a Smith, I’m a little bias, so they are both my Doctor’s 🙂 Gotta love 12 though! They all rock! 

Question 8) How excited are you to see the Doctor being played by a woman for the first time?

I’m very excited! At first, I was worried about the casting just to please an agenda, but JODIE is going to be BRILLIANTLY AMAZING and I cannot wait! Also super excited for the new showrunner. Moffat had fine moments for sure, but new blood I think is most welcomed! 

Question 9) Okay, back to writing. What would you say is your interesting writing quirk? 

Oh yes, I could talk about Doctor Who all day! I think my ‘quirk’ might be my habit of going into tangents / rants when I write, in character! My next coming novel In Need of Direction, a modern adult contemporary, the main character Charlie Vail goes in MANY side-rants. I have to trim them down a lot lol. I also like to make pop culture reference because I’m easily amused!

Question 10) What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating this book? 

DfGv9UIW0AAblUwI think the whole book itself surprised me. The first draft, horrible as it is, is WAY different and was more middle grade level. I changed it a lot too also to add more STEAMPUNK elements which I’m also a big fan of!

Question 11) Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share?

Certainly! Grab a preview here! https://issuu.com/bhcpress/docs/qotp_cs 

Question 12) What can we expect from you in the future?   

In 2019, my contemporary fiction novel In Need of Direction, about a Hollywood movie director who finds love a little too late when he finds out he’s dying, will be released. 2020 is expected to be the release of the sequel to the Quest of the Prodigy where our heroes will travel to the golden age of piracy! I’m also working on some screenwriting scripts for some contests, so WHO knows 😉 

Question 13) How can we contact you or find out more about your books? 

Thank you so much! I like how you have THIRTEEN questions for the new Doctor, woohoo!

They can visit me at writewithclaire.net! I’m also very active on Twitter @authorcsmith!

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Interview With The Stars: Mierta McKinnon

IWS Season 3 - Episode 3

Recently, Mierta McKinnon, one of the main characters of The Rite of Wands young adult fantasy series, took part in a special character interview.

Who is Mierta? Find out in this exclusive interview on Interviews With The Stars Season 3! You aren’t going to want to miss it!

https://www.tabislick.com/2018/04/miertainterview.html

*Interviews With The Stars (IWS) is a virtual show held at the SWC Headquarters where stars from around the book world are interviewed by the show’s host Tabi Slick. The goal is to bring characters to life, introduce readers to new reads, and promote Indie Authors.*

 

Book Spotlight: The Vault by Brian Harrison #newrelease #Tuesdaybookblog #Tuesdayteaser #familylife #contemporaryfiction

The Vault

Why would a multibillionaire create a customized vault that is controlled by watch mechanics inside and have a self-destruct mechanism inside to destroy the billion dollars worth of artifacts inside?

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Simple, because he can.

On paper, Sam Montgomery is your typical eccentric philanthropic pharmaceutical billionaire whom has literally mailed five dollars to everyone in the US so they can “pay it forward.” But what people didn’t know when made a rare public appearance was that he was announcing he had leukemia. And more shocking was that when he said, “I’d rather die than give my sister the opportunity to save my life,” no one even knew he had a sister.

Elena Diamante nailed the sit-down interview – at his small home on the tiny island of Antikythera in Greece. She was only planning on getting the scoop about Sam and his apparently estranged sister but she was also going to be the first journalist to see inside Sam’s custom-made vault. It was built using watch mechanics, so it was completely self-sustained, and only opened once a year. It was even rumored that if it were ever tampered with, everything inside would be destroyed in a custom acid.

Come to find out for Elena, there would be one item inside Sam’s vault that could save his life, or end it even quicker, it was just a matter of whether or not the vault would open in time.

The vault explores Sam’s family dynamics and how they inspired him to become the successful man he is. The story is also told using Sam’s own family photos growing up, as well as text messages and Facebook/Twitter. There are even hyperlinks within the novel as “Easter Eggs” for those readers that want to explore even more of Sam’s personal life, further blurring the lines of fact/fiction.

Request The Rite of Wands through LibraryThing

Request BHC Press titles through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program!

YA titles this month include THE RITE OF WANDS by Mackenzie Flohr – Writer, THE REFORMATION OF MARLI MEADE by Tracy Hewitt Meyer, ELEMENTS by Raymond Henri, & DARK FLOWERS (#audiobook) by Caytlyn Brooke.

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